Is Google Terminator’s SkyNet?

Is Google Terminator’s SkyNet?


Is Google SkyNet? In a word: Yes. In fact, in some ways, it’s even smarter. SkyNet didn’t assume worldwide domination until 2029, while Google has already effectively monopolized search and it’s only 2009. Sure, one uses a giant Web crawler to index billions of pages, and the other uses a giant arsenal of automated nuclear super-weapons to extinguish the human race. But petty discrepancies aside, they’re virtual twins. Don’t believe it? Take a look at the tale of the tape:


Google SkyNet
Established September 4, 1998 August 4, 1997
Funding Stanford University U.S. Military via NORAD
Built by Cybergeek PhD students Cyberdyne Systems
Goal Eliminate 404 error Eliminate human military error
Origin Menlo Park, CA Sunnyvale, CA
Scaled Up By Selling keyword advertising Gaining sentience and self-awareness
Assets $31.76 billion USD B2 Bombers; American nuclear arsenal
Cost $1.1 million initial investment ~3 billion human lives
Partnerships NASA/Ames, Sun Microsystems, AOL Time Warner, News Corp, GeoEye Army of cyborg terminators
Shameful Secret Named after a misspelling of the word “googol.” Saw Spielberg’s AI; cried.


Direct Descendant Experimental search engine called “BackRub.” A microprocessor invented by Miles Bennett Dyson.
Tipping Point Begins selling keyword advertising in 2000, leading to a market cap of $23 billion at 2004 IPO. Of its own volition, nukes Russia on August 29, 1997, aka “Judgment Day,” sparking catastrophic nuclear conflict.
Unforeseen Turn of Events Creates smartphone platform. Uh oh, Apple! Designates all human life as enemy. Uh oh, humans!
Motivation Making cool products; not being evil. Anger, fear, insecurity.
Thanks to… Smart Google Labs projects like Gmail, Maps, Docs and Scholar The hording of a heat-resistant metal called coltan, used to make Terminator exoskeletons.


Fatal Flaw Achieves 70% market share, which makes users and regulators increasingly uncomfortable. Allowing a small group of humans to survive, in order to run incinerator necessary for post-genocide clean-up. Camp worker John Connor frees this group to form insurgency.
Potential Undoing A very competitive, litigious, and well-capitalized Microsoft. Kyle Reese, sent back in time by Connor to protect his own mother, Sarah, later impregnating her and becoming John Connor’s father.
Can Only Be Defeated By Inevitable anti-trust litigation The surprisingly durable reprise of the Governator



Blows Your Mind By… Providing its pimply, energetic employees with one free day per week to mess around with pet projects. Violating the Novikov self-consistency principle, which asserts that any time-travel event that could change the past would reduce its own probability to zero.
Pesky Humans… Sue for privacy violations committed by Street View van, and lose. Crush original Terminator in hydraulic press and steal his arm.
If You… Search “Worst band in the world,” you are pushed to search results for the band Creed. Drop a Terminator in molten steel, he melts at a theatrically slow pace.
Whoa! Google Groups contains over 845 million messages, the world’s largest body of written human conversation. Dept. of Defense tries to use SkyNet to remove a rogue virus from its computers. Turns out SkyNet is the virus! Bummer!
Would Be Lonely Without… YouTube You to burn
Bet You Didn’t Know Google Maps has mapped a chunk of Mars. The female Terminatrix in Terminator 3 is a composite of T-800 and T-1000 and is powered by an onboard “plasma reactor.”
Seems to Think… That vertical search engines like SourceTool can be squeezed out with bad advertising rates. That humans are eager to nuke each other into oblivion at the slightest provocation.
Secret Sauce Uses a secret algorithm to assign “quality scores” to advertisers’ sites, on which it bases ad rates. Takes the concept of “cybernetic revolt” pioneered in films like 1927’s Metropolis to the next badass level.
Lame Takeoff Cuil The Matrix


Solution to Potential Undoing Lawyers; acquisitions T-800; T-1000; later, a hot lady Terminator (T-X)
Living in 450,000 servers all over the earth, with no central nervous system that can be destroyed. Every computer on earth, with no central nervous system that can be destroyed.
Building On… An advanced empire across the Earth, ready by 2009 An advanced empire across the Earth, ready by 2029.
Hopes You’ll… Enjoy the new Gmail themes! See the new Terminator movie. And die, already.

About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.